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Ayr Gold Cup preview

If the rain has stopped in Scotland, then it will be Ayr Gold (and Silver and Bronze) Cup day in a traditionally very difficult sprint handicap. Taking the reins for the preview is @Sir_Back2Lay

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The Ayr Gold Cup is Europe’s richest sprint handicap held in September and consists of 27 runners. This year’s renewal is most likely to be run over very soft conditions so we are really looking for horses that have proven form on soft ground or are very much bred to handle such conditions. With 26 runners ready to line up it really is a fun puzzle to try and solve. But as always I will start by going through the main trends from the past 10 runnings.

· Aged 4 to 6
· Carrying 9-0 to 9-6
· Officially rated 97 to 105
· Has run at least 4 times this season
· Won no more than once in 2012 (ideally no wins this year)
· Ran in a class 3 or better in past 35 days
· Ran over 8 days ago and not carrying a penalty:-
· Won at class 3 level or higher
· Previously contested a class 1 race
· Won over 6F or 7F
· Has won a race with 14+ runners
· Contested the Stewards Cup and/or Great St Wilfrid in 2011/12
· Trained by Dandy Nicholls or Kevin Ryan
· Priced between 10/1 and 20/1

Age: - This one can be followed strictly since only one 3yo has won this race in the past 10 years and that one was trained by the sprint king Dandy Nicholls. No horse aged 7yo or older has won the race in the past 10 years. So we have one 3yo in the line-up and that is Sholaan who is trained by William Haggas. That one looked like a sprinter to follow but falls on other trends bar this one.

As for the older horses they include Borderlescott, Johannes, Regal Parade and Beacon Lodge. Now all cannot be so easily discounted to land a place but I would be very disappointed if one of them could win this. The first three mentioned are actually in great form but this race is usually won be a progressive sprinter who goes on to improve again the following season. Several of those have actually contested the Ayr Gold Cup in the past.

Carrying 9-0 to 9-6:- This is relative to the race on the day but I would say top weights have a dreadful record in this race so that is a negative against Maarek but I will cover him later on.

Ran in a class 3 or better in past 35 days:- Right I have skipped a few trends because this one really does seem to count when looking through the form. Basically you are looking for fit horses because in the past 10 years no winner had no more than a 57 day break.

So this trend would be a negative against Morache Music, Mirza, Rodrigo De Torres, Pearl Ice, Tariq Too and that 3yo Sholaan. Very hard to fancy that one with two strong trends against him already, he won nicely on soft ground at York but at the current prices it’s easy to look elsewhere.

Tariq Too is 100% likely to relish conditions tomorrow and is a cracking price at 20/1 but he does seem better suited to a flat 7f on soft, Ayr has a very stiff finish and plenty have form over him.

Pearl Ice has been well backed all week but he is another who falls under another few trends. Main one being he has only had 6 career runs on turf and 8 overall. Lightly raced horses do not tend to win this race and again he is a little too short. Both Morache Music and Mirza are classy types who will relish conditions and have proven strong form all season long but the breaks are still a real negative against them.

Ran over 8 days ago and not carrying a penalty:- Again a very strong trend with no horse winning this race in the past 10 years who ran in the last 7 days or carrying a penalty. This would put Maarek into this list along with Doc Hay, Cheviot and Borderlescott.

Won no more than once in 2012 (ideally no wins this year):- Now this is a very interesting trend but it can be easily explained. It’s all about finding a horse that has shown a decent level of form all season but hasn’t gone up too much in the weights, basically sneaked under the radar you could say.

If we concentrate on the horses that are still to slip on the trends we have Hawkeyethenoo who won the Stewards Cup at Goodwood and has shown solid form all season long. Our Jonathan won FTO this season but has either been unlucky in his runs or not had the race run to suit. This horse won the Ayr Gold Cup last year and trainer Kevin Ryan states that he is in as good a form as last year. But how many have won the Gold Cup back to back? None have in the past 30 years but Funfair Wane, the 3yo winner mentioned earlier, won it 2 years later as a 5yo. So it’s fair to say that Our Jonathan does not face an easy task to break into the history books. Plus favourites have a dire record in this so it would take a brave punter to back this horse at the current price of 10/1.

The Cheka was another to win FTO this season and has been campaigned in Listed or Group company his entire career so the class is there for all to see. One huge positive for him is the going; he will relish conditions tomorrow and stays the trip very well. Waffle has not managed to win this season (lets out a chuckle) but this horse has placed or gone close in every big sprint handicap you can think of. Another to have shown form on soft you can put him in the exacta or forecast.

I must give a mention to Pintura who has won some large field handicaps this season after being off the boil for so long but stepping down to 6f is a big ask today. The ground will hold no fears for this mudlark though, so expect him to be finishing on at the death.

Fillies/Mares:- We can quickly knock off a few more from the short list. Fillies and mares hold a very poor record in this so I see no danger in crossing off Miss Work Of Art and Boastful. Now Miss Work Of Art will struggle in this but Boastful has some very strong form on soft/heavy ground but still behind a few on form.

Perfect trend setters:
Alben Star – Course record 1-1, Distance record 2-7
Louis The Pious - Distance record 4-10
Hawkeyethenoo – Course record 1-3, Distance record 3-15
Colonel Mak – Course record 1-2, going record 1-2, Distance record 7-33
Brae Hill – Going record placed 1-0
Our Jonathan (likely to go off favourite) – Course record 1-1

Summary:
Alben Star is held in high regard by Richard Fahey but even though he has been a little disappointing this season we really must analysis the runners that have beaten him so far in 2012. They include Colonel Mak, Shropshire and Maarek all finished in front of him at Newmarket. Waffle, Hawkeyethenoo and Morache Music at Ascot. Again Waffle and Hawkeyethenoo at Goodwood and then Captain Ramius, Johannes and Louis The Pouis at Ripon LTO in the Great St Wilfrid Stakes.

Personally I think Maarek has been the most improved sprinter of the season, winning two Group 3s this season on testing ground. But he has to give Alben a 14lb pull from the Newmarket race and an 8lb pull from Ascot. That’s a fair weight pull in any sort of form reading.

They keep saying that the ground is a worry for Alben Star but he won convincingly on soft ground at Haydock beating a good yard stick in Morache Music. After that race my favourite jockey Jamie Spencer reported that he hated the ground but I find it very hard to trust his word. I am not stating that heavy or soft are his ideal conditions but that his pedigree holds no fears to the softer conditions.

He tried to keep up with the paced at Ripon and eventually tiring out of it and was drawn away from the main action at Goodwood. Classic excuses for a cliff horse you could say but this is actually the first time bar the all-weather that I have backed him.

So why not Hawkeyethenoo? All his best form has come on good and he has been behind several of these on soft ground in the past two seasons.

The pace angles are stretched all across the track so jockey tactics will come into play, with Alben Star drawn 16, Tony Hamilton can choose which side to go down. Middle stalls do very well in this race but of those drawn low I think Louis The Pouis has a big handicap in him but can seem a little one paced towards the end of his races. So the main protagonists have had a mention now except for Brae Hill, yes the Lincoln winner has gone fully under the radar for this race since winning on the first day of the season. Not won over 6f but he has a great record on heavy and soft ground, with the stamina influence a great asset for today.

So in short I expect Alben Star to show his true worth tomorrow, Colonel Mak to be right up there with the pace along with Louis The Pious. Brae Hill to be kicking on strong at the end along with Maarek, Tariq Too, Boastful, The Cheka, Captain Ramius and Our Jonathan. The top weight Maarek has been tremendous this season but that weight plus a relatively novice jockey to the Scottish track means he should be struggling but has an excellent turn of foot, even on soft. Plenty of dangers but Ive picked my arrows and I am ready to shoot....

Recommendations:
Alben Star @ 20/1, Brae Hill @ 33/1 with Louis The Pouis @ 20/1 as a back to lay option.

Main dangers:
Colonel Mak has a great chance to go close but Barron vs Fahey and Ryan I have opted for but put a saver on him at 16/1, Maarek is too classy to fully leave out of the equation and Our Jonathan last year’s winner has actually come into this race with the perfect profile.

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